North Carolina defeated NC State Saturday 76-65 in front of a electric crowd moving the tar heels into third place in the ACC. The defensive play by PJ Hairston on CJ Leslie, Reggie Bullocks sharp shooting and James Michael McAdoo’s constant hustle are all story lines that will be written about the next few days as Roy Williams smaller line up is paying dividends for UNC. The silver lining I took from today’s game was Marcus Paige stepping up during winning time making decisive plays that put the game away for North Carolina.
Marcus Paige has had his share of ups and downs this season and even the task of taking over at point guard for popular Kendall Marshall would be daunting for any veteran. Paige’s leadership should have already been seen by the way he has handled the media and continues to play hard even when fans were pointing toward recruits coming in over the next two years. Despite the rumblings of disappointing Paige has quietly settled into his role and is making his way to playing as if he were a wily veteran.
Despite a slow start offensively against NC State the freshman from Iowa finished with 14 points with several of his buckets coming late in the shot clock in the final minutes of the game. In a game where the Tar Heels needed to be efficient with the basketball because NC State would have an advantage on the backboards Paige calmly dished out eight assists and had zero turnovers. In fact the freshman over the past five games has committed five turnovers while handing out twenty one assists. That is good for a 4/1 assist to turnover ration which is Ty Lawson type statistics.
Roy Williams may have struck gold with a smaller line up however the play of Marcus Paige has been crucial to the Tar Heels recent success. Every successful Tar Heel offense needs a driver to push the petal on the Daytona 500 type pace Coach Williams wants to run. The Tar Heels could be a dangerous team down the stretch and into the NCAA tournament especially since the freshman point guard appears to more comfortable driving the car.